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The Struggle to Change My Eating Habits After My Autoimmune Disease Diagnosis

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Part of what makes autoimmune disease difficult is that once a patient has one diagnosis, it seems that patient is more likely to develop another. Further, it seems like a lot of the symptoms are the same from diagnosis to diagnosis, so it can be really frustrating because while you’re waiting for your specialist appointment, or test results, or whatever you need to wait for, you may not always know the full story about what you have or how to treat it.

There’s a large population of autoimmune patients who swear by gluten-free, or the more stringent autoimmune paleo diet. Regardless of the diagnosis, many autoimmune patients really advocate this diet as a viable treatment option to help manage symptoms.

The thing is, I don’t want to change my diet. I just don’t want to. I don’t want to have to always pack my food, avoid the potlucks at work, be the one who brings a veggie tray to the party or be the downer who can’t go to the pizza place or go get ice cream.

Is that really such a great loss, though? It seems so petty. I can argue against myself in every single one of the above scenarios. Packing my food is easy, and I’d have to pack my food whether it was chicken breast or leftover Chinese take-out. I can bring healthy options to the potluck, and I can avoid the break room to avoid temptation. Veggies trays actually go really quickly at parties; even before I was diagnosed I was always happy to grab a handful of carrots. It’s true I can’t go to the pizza place or get ice cream, but that’s going to have to be OK.

What I really have to lose: constipation, chronic pain, irritability, anxiety, fatigue.

The foods that are off-limits are different for everyone because has different reactions. However, a lot of the reactions are the same, even though the foods are different. Inflammation is very real problem and affects almost everything. A recent study indicated that the modern Western diet causes an inflammatory response in the body, similar to a widespread infection.

It makes sense thinking it through. But in practice it’s harder. “Grazing” – grabbing just a bite or a handful here and there – is hard to avoid when temptation is everywhere. And just a bite here and there adds up really quickly!

It’s hard to commit to, but I don’t think I have a choice anymore. It’s either this or another medication with really strong side effects, so that’s really just trading one set of problems for another. I’m not willing to live this way. I want to do better for myself. I want to feel better. I want better mental function and cognitive function. It seems like an easy decision to make, doesn’t it? Nothing really to lose, but maybe I gain myself back. I can find replacements. I can join a recipe group, make some Pinterest boards.

Life’s hard either way, right? But I have the option to choose which hard I want. Do I want to stay the way I am, which is hard? Or do I want to change, which is also hard, but the potential payoff is worth it?

It seems obvious in this moment. Wish me luck!

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Photo via PavelRodimov on Getty Images

Originally published: January 23, 2018
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